Power Wins Pole Position for Season Opener at St. Pete

March 26, 2011

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (March 26, 2011) – Will Power led Team Penske's strong performance Saturday by winning the pole position for the Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg, the season-opening race for the IZOD IndyCar Series.
Power's fastest lap of 1:01.9625 around the 1.8-mile, 14-turn street circuit in the No. 12 Verizon Team Penske Dallara/Honda earned him the No. 1 starting position for Sunday's race, which will be televised live on ABC-TV at 12:30 p.m. ET. It also led Team Penske's effort, which resulted in three cars qualifying inside the top-10.
Ryan Briscoe will start fifth after he posted a top lap of 1:02.5744 in the No. 6 IZOD Team Penske Dallara/Honda, while Helio Castroneves will line up ninth on Sunday in the No. 3 Guidepoint Systems Team Penske Dallara/Honda as he clocked a fast lap of 1:02.8204.
Power, who claimed the Mario Andretti Road Course championship in 2010 and finished second to Dario Franchitti in the overall IZOD IndyCar Series championship last season, topped Franchitti by slightly more than 0.3 seconds for the pole on Saturday.
"It was a good session," said Power, who won his second pole at St. Petersburg pole and the 17th pole of his Indy car racing career. "We knew it would be tough out there and the Verizon car is in great shape for tomorrow.  I'm really happy to start the season this way."
Briscoe would have liked to battle his teammate for the pole, but he acknowledged that fifth position is a solid place to start a 100-lap race on a tough street circuit.
"We've been running at the front all weekend and trying to tune it in," said Briscoe, the 2009 winner at St Pete. "We don't get to practice on the (Firestone alternate) red tire, so your setup can go one way. We'd backed ourselves into a bit of a corner today, and I wasn't happy with the car going through the qualifying sessions, but it's a good car for the race. I think we'll be able to tune it. Fifth position is a solid starting spot. We'll be able to race from there."
An aggressive change after the opening round of qualifying may have cost Castroneves, a two-time winner at St. Petersburg, a shot at the Firestone Fast Six. "The Guidepoint Systems car was good today," said the three-time Indianapolis 500 winner. "After the first session we made a change on the car and it was probably a little bit too greedy by me as we were trying to get the most out of the car for the Firestone Fast Six. It's not where we wanted to start, but at least we're in the top-10. We've seen before that people can start from there and get up to the front. That's the plan for us tomorrow."
Sunday's race will mark the first in which the IZOD IndyCar Series will implement double-file restarts. "I'm looking forward to it," said Power. "If you get shuffled back, you'll have a chance to race back to it on the restarts. It's going to be great for fans."
On Sunday Team Penske will be looking for its fifth win in the last six races at St. Petersburg as the team tries to open the season with a victory for the third consecutive year.